Recycling: Past, Present and Future

Posted by baggermaid Admin on

Over the last several decades, recycling has made major leaps, especially when you consider that there wasn’t a single U.S. recycling program in place until 1973. Today, there are thousands of programs in operation. Although we’ve come a long way since the 1970s environmental movement, recycling programs still have a long way to go.

The U.S. currently recycles about one-third of municipal trash—that is, waste that’s generated in homes, schools, and non-industrial businesses. There are strategies we can employ today that will immediately increase how much we recycle:

  • Closing the Loop: Separating trash from recyclables is just one step in the recycling loop; to close the gap, more products need to be manufactured from recycled material, and consumers should make a greater effort to purchase these products. Creating merchandise from scratch can be harsh and damaging to the environment; post-consumer recycled content gives added life to something that’s already been made.
  • Compost, Compost, Compost: The numbers tell an alarming story: although 60 percent of U.S. household waste is compostable, only 8 percent of Americans compost. Composting is the way to go — you’ll never have a better-looking garden.
  • Practice “Pre-Cycling:” Recycling and composting are just the beginning. An excellent way to reduce how much trash your house is sending to the curb is to start “pre-cycling:” buying in bulk to reduce excess packaging, purchasing reusable bags, using a refillable water bottle or coffee cup—these are all great examples of ways you can pre-cycle.

Strategies to Grow Recycling Rates

Although recycling numbers have increased, the amount of trash produced has also skyrocketed. The amount of material that’s recycled today is the equivalent of the total sum of waste produced in 1960. While recycling programs have been successful, experts say that the future focus should be on finding ways to limit the amount of trash that’s produced; doing so will lower the amount of greenhouse gasses that are released.

Managing Electronic Waste: Technology is changing, and the explosion of smart devices and laptops in the past decade has meant an increase in the electronic waste that is produced. The U.S. generated 3.41 million tons of e-waste in 2011—but only 850,000 tons were recycled; the rest ended up in landfills and incinerators. The result was that the toxic chemicals that electronic components are made from ended up in our soil or the atmosphere.

Improved Plastic Bag Recycling and Reduced Use: In the U.S. alone, 380 billion plastic bags are used a year, and less than 5 percent are recycled. Recycling one ton of plastic bags costs around $4,000, but the recycled product can be sold for just $32. There isn’t currently enough of a profit motivation. Still, efforts are being made to get people to reduce their dependence on plastic bags, while others are working to make recycling of plastic bags easier and more profitable.

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